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**Ramana August 30, 2006 10:13
**

Chapter 4

Calculus of Variations

4.1 INTRODUCTION

Calculus of variations deals with certain kinds of

“external problems” in which expressions involving

integrals are optimized (maximized or minimized).

Euler and Lagrange in the 18th century laid the foun-

dations, with the classical problems of determining

a closed curve in the plane enclosing maximum area

subject to ﬁxed length and the brachistochrone prob-

lem of determining the path between two points in

minimum time. The present day problems include

the maximization of the entropy integral in third law

of thermodynamics, minimization of potential and

kinetic energies integral in Hamilton’s principle in

mechanics, the minimization of energy integral in

the problems in elastic behaviour of beams, plates

and shells. Thus calculus of variations deals with the

study of extrema of “functionals”.

Functional: A real valued function f whose

domain is the set of real functions {y(x)} is known

as a functional (or functional of a single independent

variable). Thus the domain of deﬁnition of a func-

tional is a set of admissible functions. In ordinary

functions the values of the independent variables are

numbers. Whereas with functionals, the values of the

independent variables are functions.

Example: The length L of a curve, c whose equa-

tion is y = f (x), passing through two given points

A(x

1

, y

1

) and B(x

2

, y

2

) is given by

L =

_

x

2

x

1

_

1 +y

2

dx

where y

denotes derivative of y w.r.t. x.

Now the length L of the curve passing through

A and B depends on y(x) (the curve). Than L is a

function of the independent variable y(x), which is

a function. Thus

L{y(x)} =

_

x

2

x

1

_

1 +y

2

dx

Fig. 4.1

X

O

Y

A

B

c

2

c

n

c

1

deﬁnes a functional which associates a real number

L uniquely to each y(x) (the independent variable).

Further suppose we wish to determine the curve hav-

ing shortest (least) distance between the two given

points A and B, i.e., curve with minimum length L.

This is a classical example of a variational problem

in which we wish to determine, the particular curve

y = y(x) which minimizes the functional L{y(x)}

given by (1). Here the two conditions y(x

1

) = y

1

and

y(x

2

) = y

2

, which are imposed on the curve y(x) are

known as end conditions of the problem. Thus varia-

tional problems involves determination of maximum

or minimumor stationary values of a functional. The

term extremum is used to include maximum or min-

imum or stationary values.

4.2 VARIATIONAL PROBLEM

Consider the general integral (a functional)

I{y(x)} =

_

x

2

x

1

f (x, y, y

)dx (1)

4.1

Chap-04 B.V.Ramana August 30, 2006 10:13

4.2 MATHEMATICAL METHODS

Extremal: A function y = y(x) which extremizes

(1) and satisﬁes the end conditions y(x

1

) = y

1

and

y(x

2

) = y

2

is known as an extremal or extremizing

function of the functional I (given by (1)). A

variational problem is to ﬁnd such an extremal

function y(x).

Variation of a Function and a Functional

When the independent variable x changes to x +x

then the dependent variable y of the function y =

f (x) changes to y +y. Thus y is the change of

the function, the differential dy provides the varia-

tion in y. Consider a function f (x, y, y

) which for

a ﬁxed x, becomes a functional deﬁned on a set of

functions {y(x)}.

For a ﬁxed value of x, if y(x) is changed to y(x) +

η(x), where is independent of x, then η(x) is

known as the variation of y and is denotd by δy.

Similarly, variation of y

is η

(x) and is denoted by

δy

**. Now the change in f is given by
**

f = f (x, y +η, y

+η

) −f (x, y, y

)

Expanding the ﬁrst term on R.H.S. by Maclaurins

series in powers of , we get

f =f (x, y, y

) +

_

∂F

∂y

η +

∂F

∂y

η

_

+

+

_

∂

2

F

∂y

2

η

2

+

2∂

2

F

∂yy

ηη

+

∂

2

F

∂y

2

η

2

_

2

2!

+

+· · · −F(x, y, y

)

or approximately, neglecting higher powers of .

f =

∂f

∂y

η +

∂f

∂y

η

=

∂f

∂y

δy +

∂f

∂y

δy

**Thus the variation of a functional f is denoted by δf
**

and is given by

δf =

∂f

∂y

δy +

∂f

∂y

δy

**which is analogous to the differential of a function.
**

Result: (a) δ(f

1

±f

2

) = δf

1

±δf

2

(b) δ(f

1

f

2

) = f

1

δf

2

+f

2

δf

1

(c) δ(f

η

) = ηf

η−1

δf

(d) δ

_

f

1

f

2

_

=

f

2

δf

1

−f

1

δf

2

f

2

2

(e)

d

dx

(δy) =

d

dx

(η) =

dη

dx

= η

=

δy

= δ

_

dy

dx

_

.

Thus takingthe variationof a functional anddiffer-

entiating w.r.t. the independent variable x are com-

mutative operations.

Result: The necessary condition for the functional

I to attain an extremum is that its variation vanish

i.e., δI = 0.

4.3 EULER’S EQUATION

A necessary condition for the integral

I =

_

x

2

x

1

f (x, y, y

)dx (1)

to attain an extreme value is that the extremizing

function y(x) should satisfy

∂f

∂y

−

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

_

= 0 (2)

for x

1

≤ x ≤ x

2

.

Note 1: The second order differential equation (2)

is known as Euler-Lagrange or simply Euler’s equa-

tion for the integral (1).

Note 2: The solutions (integral curves) of Euler’s

equation are known as extremals (or stationary func-

tions) of the functional. Extremum for a functional

can occur only on extremals.

Proof: Assume that the function y = y(x), is

twice-differentiable on [x

1

, x

2

], satisﬁes the end

(boundary) conditions y(x

1

) = y

1

and y(x

2

) = y

2

and extremizes (maximizes or minimizes) the inte-

gral I given by (1). To determine such a function

y(x), construct the class of comparison functions

Y(x) deﬁned by

Y(x) = y(x) +η(x) (2)

on the interval [x

1

, x

2

]. For any function η(x), y(x) is

a member of this class of functions {Y(x)} for = 0.

Assume that

η(x

1

) = η(x

2

) = 0 (3)

Chap-04 B.V.Ramana August 30, 2006 10:13

CALCULUS OF VARIATIONS 4.3

Differentiating (2),

Y

(x) = y

(x) +η

(x) (4)

Replacing y and y

in (1) Y and Y

from (2) and (4),

we obtain the integral

I() =

_

x

2

x

1

f (x, Y, Y

)dx (5)

which is a function of the parameter . Thus the

problem of determining y(x) reduces to ﬁnding the

extremumof I() at = 0 which is obtained by solv-

ing I

**( = 0) = 0. For this, differentiate (5) w.r.t. ,
**

we get

dI

d

=I

() =

_

x

2

x

1

_

∂f

∂Y

∂Y

∂

+

∂f

∂Y

∂Y

∂

_

dx

=

_

x

2

x

1

_

∂f

∂Y

η +

∂f

∂Y

η

_

dx

putting = 0,

I

(0) =

_

x

2

x

1

_

∂f

∂y

η +

∂f

∂y

η

_

dx (6)

because for = 0, we have from(2) Y = y and Y

=

y

**. Integrating the second integral in R.H.S. of (6) by
**

parts, we have

I

(0) =

_

x

2

x

1

∂f

∂y

η +

_

∂f

∂y

η

¸

¸

¸

¸

x

2

x

1

−

_

x

2

x

1

η

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

_

dx

_

Since by (3), η(x

1

) = η(x

2

) = 0, the second term

vanishes and using I

(0) = 0, we get

I

(0) =

_

x

2

x

1

_

∂f

∂y

−

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

__

η dx = 0 (7)

Since η(x) is arbitrary, equation (7) holds good only

when the integrand is zero

i.e.,

∂f

∂y

−

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

_

= 0 (2)

Note: Equation (2) is not sufﬁcient condition. Solu-

tion of (2) may be maximum or minimum or a hori-

zontal inﬂexion. Thus y(x) is known as extremizing

function or extremal and the termextremumincludes

maximum or minimum or stationary value.

EQUIVALENT FORMS OF EULER’S

EQUATION:

(I) Differentiating f , which is a function of x, y, y

,

w.r.t. x, we get

df

dx

=

∂f

∂x

+

∂f

∂y

dy

dx

+

∂f

∂y

dy

dx

df

dx

=

∂f

∂x

+y

∂f

∂y

+y

∂f

∂y

(8)

Consider

d

dx

_

y

∂f

∂y

_

= y

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

_

+

∂f

∂y

y

(9)

Subtracting (9) from (8), we have

df

dx

−

d

dx

_

y

∂f

∂y

_

=

∂f

∂x

+y

∂f

∂y

−y

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

_

Rewriting this

d

dx

_

f −y

∂f

∂y

_

−

∂f

∂x

=y

_

∂f

∂y

−

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

__

(10)

Since by Euler’s Equation (2), the R.H.S. of (10) is

zero, we get another form of Euler’s equtaion

d

dx

_

f −y

∂f

∂y

_

−

∂f

∂x

= 0 (11)

(II) Since

∂f

∂y

is also function φ of x, y, y

say

∂f

∂y

=

φ(x, y, y

). Differentiating w.r.t. x

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

_

=

∂φ

∂x

+

∂φ

∂y

dy

dx

+

∂φ

∂y

dy

dx

=

∂

∂x

_

∂f

∂y

_

+y

∂

∂y

_

∂f

∂y

_

+y

∂

∂y

_

∂f

∂y

_

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

_

=

∂

2

f

∂x∂y

+y

∂

2

f

∂y∂y

+y

∂

2

f

∂y

2

(12)

Substituting (12) in the Euler’s equation (2), we have

∂f

∂y

−

∂

2

f

∂x∂y

−y

∂

2

f

∂y∂y

−y

∂

2

f

∂y

2

= 0 (13)

General case: the necessary condition for the occur-

rence of extremum of the general integral

_

x

2

x

1

f (x, y

1

, y

2

, . . . , y

η

, y

1

, y

2

, . . . , y

η

)dx

involving η functions y

1

, y

2

, . . . , y

η

, is given by the

Chap-04 B.V.Ramana August 30, 2006 10:13

4.4 MATHEMATICAL METHODS

set of η Euler’s equations

∂f

∂y

i

−

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

i

_

= 0

for i = 1, 2, 3, . . . , η.

First integrals of the Euler-Lagrang’s equation:

Degenerate cases: Euler’s equation is readily inte-

grable in the following cases:

Case (a): If f is independent of x, then

∂f

∂x

= 0 and

equivalent form of Euler’s Equation (11) reduces to

d

dx

_

f −y

∂f

∂y

_

= 0

Integrating, we get the ﬁrst integral of Euler’s equa-

tion

f −y

∂f

∂y

= constant (14)

Thus the extremizing function y is obtained as the

solution of a ﬁrst-order differential equation (14)

involving y and y

only.

Case (b): If f is independent of y, then

∂f

∂y

= 0,

and the Euler’s Equation (2) reduces to

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

_

= 0

Integrating, we get the ﬁrst integral of the Euler’s

equation as,

∂f

∂y

= constant (15)

which is a ﬁrst order differential equation involving

y

and x only.

Case (c): If f is independent of x and y then the

partial derivative

∂f

∂y

**is independent of x and y and is
**

therefore function of y

**alone. Now (15) of case (b)
**

∂f

∂y

**= constant has the solution.
**

y

= constant = c

1

Integrating, the extremizing function is a linear func-

tion of x given by

y = c

1

x +c

2

Case (d): If f is independent of y

, then

∂f

∂y

= 0

and the Euler’s Equation (2) reduces to

∂f

∂y

= 0

Integrating, we get f = f (x) , i.e., function of x

alone.

Geodesics: A geodesic on a surface is a curve on

the surface along which the distance between any

two points of the surface is a minimum.

4.4 STANDARD VARIATIONAL

PROBLEMS

Shortest distance

Example 1: Find the shortest smooth plane curve

joining two distinct points in the plane.

Fig. 4.2

Solution: Assume that the two distinct points be

P

1

(x

1

, y

1

) and P

2

(x

2

, y

2

) lie in the XY-Plane. If y =

f (x) is the equation of any plane curve c in XY-

Plane and passing through the points P

1

and P

2

, then

the length L of curve c is given by

L[y(x)] =

_

x

2

x

1

_

1 +(y

)

2

dx (1)

The variational problem is to ﬁnd the plane curve

whose length is shortest i.e., to determine the func-

tion y(x) which minimizes the functional (1). The

condition for extrema is the Euler’s equation

∂f

∂y

−

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

_

= 0

Here f =

_

1 +y

2

so

∂f

∂y

= 0,

∂f

∂y

=

1

2

2y

√

1+y

2

Then

0 −

d

dx

_

y

_

1 +y

2

_

= 0

or y

= k

_

1 +y

2

where k = constant

Squaring y

2

= k

2

(1 +y

2

)

Chap-04 B.V.Ramana August 30, 2006 10:13

CALCULUS OF VARIATIONS 4.5

i.e., y

=

_

k

2

1 −k

2

= m = constant.

Integrating, y = mx +c, where c is the constant of

integration. Thus the straight line joining the two

points P

1

and P

2

is the curve with shortest length

(distance).

Brachistochrone (shortest time) problem

Example 2: Determine the plane curve down

which a particle will slide without friction from the

point A(x

1

, y

1

) to B(x

2

, y

2

) in the shortest time.

Fig. 4.3

Solution: Assume the positive direction of the y-

axis is vertically downward and let x

1

< x

2

. Let

P(x, y) be the position of the particle at any time t ,

on the curve c. Since energy is conserved, the speed

v of the particle sliding along any curve is given by

v =

_

2g(y −y

∗

)

where y

∗

= y

1

−

_

v

2

1

2g

_

. Here g is acceleration due

to gravity, v

1

is the initial speed. Choose the origin

at A so that x

1

= 0, y

1

= 0 and assume that v

1

= 0.

Then

ds

dt

= v =

_

2gy

Integrating this, we get the time taken by the particle

moving under gravity (and neglecting friction along

the curve and neglecting resistance of the medium)

from A(0, 0) to B(x

2

, y

2

) is

t [y(x)] =

_

ds

√

2gy

=

1

√

2g

_

x=x

2

x=0

_

1 +y

2

√

y

dx (1)

subject to the boundary conditions y(0) = 0 and

y(x

2

) = y

2

. Integral (1) is convergent although it is

improper. Here

f =

_

1 +y

2

√

y

which is independent of x. Now

∂f

∂y

=

1

√

y

1

_

1 +y

2

·

1

2

· 2y

**The Euler’s equation
**

d

dx

_

f −y

∂f

∂y

_

= 0

reduces to

d

dx

__

1 +y

2

√

y

−

y

2

√

y

_

1 +y

2

_

= 0

Integrating

_

1 +y

2

_

1 +y

2

−y

2

√

y

_

1 +y

2

= k

1

= constant

or y(1 +y

2

) = k

2

(1)

where k

2

=

_

1

k

1

_

2

, put y

= cotθ where θ is a

parameter. Then from (1)

y =

k

2

1 +y

2

=

k

2

1 +cot

2

θ

= k

2

sin

2

θ =

k

2

2

(1 −cos 2θ)

(2)

Now

dx =

dy

y

=

k

2

2

(+2 · sin 2θ)dθ

cotθ

=

k

2

2 · sin θ · cos θdθ

cotθ

= 2k

2

sin

2

θdθ

dx =k

2

· (1 −cos 2θ)dθ.

Integrating, x = k

2

_

θ −

sin 2θ

2

_

+k

3

, where k

3

is

constant of integration. So

x −k

3

=

k

2

2

(2θ −sin 2θ) (2)

Since y = 0 at x = 0, we have k

3

= 0. Put 2θ = φ

in (1) and (2), then

x =

k

2

2

(φ −sin φ), y =

k

2

2

(1 −cos 2φ) (3)

Chap-04 B.V.Ramana August 30, 2006 10:13

4.6 MATHEMATICAL METHODS

Equation (3) represents a one parameter family of

cycloids with

k

2

2

as the radius of the rolling circle.

Using the condition that the curve (cycloid) passes

through B(x

2

, y

2

), the value of the constant k

2

can

be determined.

Note: Acurve having this property of shortest time

is known as “brachistochrone” with Greek words

‘brachistos’ meaningshortest and‘chronos’ meaning

time. In 1696 John Bernoulli advanced this ‘brachis-

tochrone’ problem, although it was also studied by

Leibnitz, Newton and L’Hospital.

Minimal surface area

Example 3: Find the curve c passing through two

given points A(x

1

, y

1

) and B(x

2

, y

2

) such that the

rotation of the curve c about x-axis generates a sur-

face of revolution having minimum surface area.

Fig. 4.4

Solution: The surface area S generated by revolv-

ing the curve c deﬁned by y(x) about x-axis is

S[y(x)] =

_

B

A

2πy ds =

_

x

2

x=x

1

2πy

_

1 +y

2

dx (1)

To ﬁnd the extremal y(x) which minimizes (1).

Here f = y

_

1 +y

2

which is independent of x. The

Euler’s equation is

d

dx

_

f −y

∂f

∂y

_

= 0 or f −y

∂f

∂y

= constant = c

1

Substituting f and

∂f

∂y

, we have

y

_

1 +y

2

−y

y

2

1

_

1 +y

2

· 2y

=c

1

y{(1 +y

2

) −y

2

}

_

1 +y

2

=

y

_

1 +y

2

=c

1

(2)

Put y

**= sinh t , then from (2)
**

y

_

1 +sin

2

ht

=

y

cosh t

= c

1

or y = c

1

cosh t (3)

So dx =

dy

y

=

c

1

sinh t dt

sinh t

= c

1

dt

Integrating x = c

1

t +c

2

(4)

where c

2

is the constant of integration. Eliminating

‘t’ between (3) and (4)

t =

x −c

2

c

1

therefore y = c

1

cosh t = c

1

cosh

_

x −c

2

c

1

_

(5)

Equation (5) represents a two parameter family of

catenaries. The two constants C

1

and C

2

are deter-

mined using the end (boundary) conditions y(x

1

) =

y

1

and y(x

2

) = y

2

.

Solid of revolution with least resistance

Example 4: Determine the shape of solid of revo-

lution moving in a ﬂow of gas with least resistance.

Fig. 4.5

Solution: The total resistance experienced by the

body is

F[y(x)] = 4πρv

2

_

L

0

yy

3

dx

Chap-04 B.V.Ramana August 30, 2006 10:13

CALCULUS OF VARIATIONS 4.7

with boundary conditions y(0) = 0, y(L) = R. Here

ρ is the density, v is the velocity of gas relative to

solid. Here f = yy

3

is independent of x. The Euler’s

equation is

∂f

∂y

−

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

_

= y

3

−

d

dx

(3yy

2

) = 0 (1)

Multiplying (1) by y

, we get

d

dx

(yy

3

) = 0

Integrating

yy

3

= c

3

1

or y

=

c

1

y

1

3

Integrating y

1

3

dy = c

1

dx yields

y

4

3

4

3

= c

1

x +c

2

or y(x) = (c

3

x +c

4

)

3

4

(2)

Using boundary conditions

0 =y(0) = 0 +c

4

.

.

. c

4

= 0

R =y(L) = (c

3

L)

3

4

.

.

. c

3

=

R

4

3

L

The the required function y(x) is given by

y(x) = R

_

x

L

_3

4

.

Geodesics

Example 5: Find the geodesics on a sphere of

radius ‘a’.

Solution: In spherical coordinates r, θ, φ, the dif-

ferential of arc length on a sphere is given by

(ds)

2

= (dr)

2

+(rdθ)

2

+(r sin θdφ)

2

Since r = a = constant, dr = 0. So

_

ds

dθ

_

2

= a

2

+a

2

sin

2

θ

_

dφ

dθ

_

2

Integrating w.r.t. θ between θ

1

and θ

2

,

s =

_

θ

2

θ

1

a

_

1 +sin

2

θ

_

dφ

dθ

_

2

dθ

Here f = a

_

1 +sin

2

θ ·

_

dφ

dθ

_

2

is independent of φ,

but is a function of θ and

dφ

dθ

. Denoting

dφ

dθ

= φ

, the

Euler’s equation reduces to

d

dθ

_

∂f

∂φ

_

= 0 or

∂f

∂φ

= constant.

i.e., a ·

1

_

1 +sin

2

θφ

2

·

1

2

2 · sin

2

θ · φ

= k = constant

Squaring a

2

sin

4

θ · φ

2

= k

2

(1 +sin

2

θ · φ

2

)

or

dφ

dθ

= φ

=

k

sin θ ·

_

sin

2

θ −k

2

=

kcosec

2

θ

_

1 −c

2

cosec

2

θ

Integrating, we get

φ(θ) =

_

kcosec

2

θ dθ

_

(1 −k

2

) −(kcotθ)

2

+c

2

φ(θ) =cos

−1

_

kcotθ

_

1 −k

2

_

+c

2

where c

2

is constant of integration. Rewriting

kcotθ

_

1 −k

2

= cos(φ −c

2

) = cos φ · cos c

2

+sin φ · sin c

2

or cotθ = Acos φ +B sin φ

where A =

(cos c

2

)(

_

1 −k

2

)

k

,

B = (sin c

2

)

(

_

1 −k

2

)

k

Multiplying by a sin θ, we have

a cos θ = A · a · sin θ · cos φ +B · a · sin θ · sin φ

Since r = a, the spherical coordinates are x =

a sin θ cos φ, y = a sin θ sin φ, z = a cos θ, so

z = Ax +By

which is the equation of plane, passing through ori-

gin (0, 0, 0) (since no constant term) the centre of

sphere. This plane cuts the sphere along a great cir-

cle. Hence the great circle is the geodesic on the

sphere.

Chap-04 B.V.Ramana August 30, 2006 10:13

4.8 MATHEMATICAL METHODS

WORKED OUT EXAMPLES

Variational problems.

f is dependent on x, y, y

**Example 1: Find a complete solution of the Euler-
**

Lagrange equation for

_

x

2

x

1

_

y

2

−(y

)

2

−2y cosh x

_

dx (1)

Solution: Here f (x, y, y

) = y

2

−(y

)

2

−

2y cosh x, which is a function of x, y, y

. The

Euler-Lagrange equation is

∂f

∂y

−

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

_

= 0 (2)

Differentiating (1) partially w.r.t. y and y

, we get

∂f

∂y

=2y −2 cosh x (3)

∂f

∂y

=−2y

(4)

Substituting (3) and (4) in (2), we have

2y −2 cosh x −

d

dx

(−2y

) =0

y

+y =cosh x (5)

The complimentary function of (5) is

y

c

= c

1

cos x +c

2

sin x

and particular integral of (5) is

y =

1

2

cosh x.

Thus the complete solutionEuler-Lagrange Equation

(5) is

y(x) = c

1

cos x +c

2

sin x +

1

2

cosh x.

f is independent of x

Example 1: Find the extremals of the functional

I[y(x)] =

_

x

2

x

1

(1 +y

2

)

y

2

dx

Solution: Here f =

1+y

2

y

2

which is independent of

x. So the Euler’s equation becomes

d

dx

_

f −y

∂f

∂y

_

= 0 (1)

Here

∂f

∂y

=

∂

∂y

_

1 +y

2

y

2

_

= −

2(1 +y

2

)

y

3

(2)

Substituting (2) in (1), we have

d

dx

_

1 +y

2

y

2

−y

(−2)(1 +y

2

)

y

3

_

=3

d

dx

_

1 +y

2

y

2

_

=0

y

2

(2yy

) −(1 +y

2

)2y

y

y

4

=0

or (1 +y

2

)y

−yy

2

=0 (3)

Put y

= p, then y

=

d

dx

y

=

d

dx

p =

dp

dy

dy

dx

=

y

dp

dy

= p

dp

dy

. Putting these values in (3),

(1 +y

2

)p

dp

dy

−yp

2

= 0 or

dp

dy

=

py

1 +y

2

Integrating

dp

p

=

y dy

1 +y

2

=

1

2

d(1 +y

2

)

(1 +y

2

)

p

2

= c

2

1

(1 +y

2

).

so p = c

1

_

(1 +y

2

) or

dy

dx

= c

_

1 +y

2

Integrating

dy

_

1 +y

2

= c

1

dx we get

sinh

−1

y = c

1

x +c

2

Thus the required extremal function is

y(x) = sinh(c

1

x +c

2

)

where c

1

and c

2

are two arbitrary constant.

f is independent of y

Example 3: If the rate of motion v =

ds

dt

is equal to

x then the time t spent on translation along the curve

y = y(x) from one point P

1

(x

1

, y

1

) to another point

P

2

(x

2

, y

2

) is a functional. Find the extremal of this

functional, when P(1, 0) and P

2

(2, 1).

Solution: Given

ds

dt

= x or

ds

x

= dt .

But ds =

_

1 +y

2

dx so

_

1 +y

2

dx

x

= dt .

Chap-04 B.V.Ramana August 30, 2006 10:13

CALCULUS OF VARIATIONS 4.9

Integrating from P

1

to P

2

_

x

2

x

1

dt =

_

x

2

x

1

_

1 +y

2

x

dx. The functional is

t [y(x)] =

_

x

2

x

1

_

1 +y

2

x

dx

Here f =

√

1+y

2

x

which is independent of y. Euler’s

equation is

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

_

= 0

d

dx

_

1

x

·

1

2

·

1

_

1 +y

2

· 2y

_

= 0

x

_

(1 +y

2

)y

−y

_

(1 +y

2

) +xy

y

_

x

2

(1 +y

2

)

3

2

=

xy

−y

(1 +y

2

)

x

2

(1 +y

2

)

3

2

= 0

or xy

−y

(1 +y

2

) = 0.

Put y

= u, then x

du

dx

−u(1 +u

2

) = 0

du

u(1 +u

2

)

=

du

u

−

udu

1 +u

2

=

dx

x

Integrating

_

u

x

_

2

= c

2

1

(1 +u

2

)

y

2

= c

2

1

x

2

(1 +y

2

)

or y

= c

1

x

_

(1 +y

2

).

Put y

= tan v, then

_

1 +y

2

=

√

1 +tan

2

v =

√

sec

2

v

so x =

y

c

1

(1 +y

2

)

=

1

c

1

tan v

secv

=

1

c

1

sin v (1)

and dx =

1

c

1

cos v dv

Now

dy

dx

= y

= tan v

dy = tan v dx = tan v ·

1

c

1

· cos v dv =

=

1

c

1

sin v dv

Integrating y = −c

2

cos v +c

3

(2)

where c

2

=

1

c

1

or y −c

3

= −c

2

cos v (3)

Squaring (1) and (3) and adding

x

2

+(y −c

3

)

2

=(c

2

sin v)

2

+(−c

2

cos v)

2

=c

2

2

= c

4

(4)

Equation (4) represents a two-parameter family of

circles. If (4) passes through P

1

(1, 0) Then y(0) = 1.

Then (4) becomes

1 +(0 −c

3

)

2

= c

4

or 1 +c

2

3

= c

4

If (4) passes through P

2

(2, 1) then y(2) = 1.

So from (4),

4 +(1 −c

3

)

2

= c

4

= 1 +c

2

3

.

.

. c

3

= −2

and c

4

= 5. Thus the required extremal satisfying the

end points P

1

and P

2

is

x

2

+(y +2)

2

= 5.

Invalid variational problem

Example 4: Test for an extremumof the functional

I[y(x)]=

_

1

0

(xy +y

2

−2y

2

y

)dx, with y(0)=1, y(1)=2.

Solution: Here f = xy +y

2

−2y

2

y

. Differenti-

ating partially w.r.t. y and y

, we have

∂f

∂y

= x +2y −4yy

and

∂f

∂y

= −2y

2

.

Substituting these in the Euler’s equation

∂f

∂y

−

d

dx

_

∂f

∂y

_

=(x +2y −4yy

) −

d

dx

(−2y

2

) = 0

=x +2y −4yy

+4yy

= 0

or x +2y =0 i.e., y = −

x

2

.

However, this function y = f (x) does not satisfy the

given boundary conditions y(0) = 1 and y(1) = 2

i.e., 1 = y(0) = 0 and 2 = y(1) == −

1

2

. Thus an

extremum can not be achieved on the class of con-

tinuous functions.

Geodesics

Example 5: Determine the equation of the

geodesics on a right circular cylinder of radius ‘a’.

Chap-04 B.V.Ramana August 30, 2006 10:13

4.10 MATHEMATICAL METHODS

Solution: In cylindrical coordinates (r, θ, z), the

differential of arc ds on a cylinder is given by

(ds)

2

= (dr)

2

+(rdθ)

2

+(dz)

2

Since radius r = a = constant, dr = 0. Then

_

ds

dθ

_

2

= a

2

+

_

dz

dθ

_

2

or

ds

dθ

=

_

a

2

+

_

dz

dθ

_

2

Integrating

s =

_

θ

2

θ

1

_

a

2

+

_

dz

dθ

_

2

dθ.

Since geodesic is curve with minimum length, we

have to ﬁnd minimum of s. Here f =

_

a

2

+

_

dz

dθ

_

2

which is independent of the variable z. Now the

Euler’s equation is

d

dθ

_

∂f

∂z

_

= 0 or

∂f

∂z

= constant = k

so

∂f

∂z

=

_

_

a

2

+

_

dz

dθ

_

2

_

=

1

2

2 · z

_

a

2

+z

2

= k

or z

2

= k

2

(a

2

+z

2

)

z

2

=

k

2

a

2

1 −k

2

i.e., z

=

dz

dθ

=

ka

_

1 −k

2

Integrating z(θ) =

kaθ

√

1−k

2

+c

1

. Thus the equation of

the geodesics which is a circular helix is

z =k

∗

θ +c

1

and r = a

where k

∗

=

ka

_

1 −k

2

.

Example 6: Find the geodesics on a right circular

cone of semivertical angle α.

Solution: In spherical coordinates (r, θ, φ) the dif-

ferential of an arc ds on a right circular cone is given

by

(ds)

2

= (dr)

2

+(rdθ)

2

+(r sin α dφ)

2

.

With vertex of the cone at the origin and z-axis as

the axis of the cone, the polar equation of cone is

θ = α = constant so dθ = 0.

Then

_

ds

dφ

_

2

=

_

dr

dφ

_

2

+r

2

sin

2

α

Integrating w.r.t., φ

s =

_

φ

2

φ

1

_

_

dr

dφ

_

2

+r

2

sin

2

α · dφ

The arc length s of the curve is to be minimized. Here

f =

_

_

dr

dφ

_

2

+r

2

sin

2

α is independent of φ. Then

the integral of Euler’s equation is

f −r

∂f

∂r

= constant = k

or

_

r

2

+r

2

sin

2

α −r

·

1

2

2r

_

r

2

+r

2

sin

2

α

= k

r

2

+r

2

sin

2

α −r

2

= k

_

r

2

+r

2

sin

2

α

squaring, r

4

sin

4

α = k

2

(r

2

+r

2

sin

2

α)

r

2

=

r

2

sin

2

α(r

2

sin

2

α −k

2

)

k

2

or

dr

dφ

=

r sin α

k

·

_

r

2

sin

2

α −k

2

i.e.,

kdr

r

_

r

2

sin

2

α −k

2

= sin α · dφ.

Integrating k ·

_

dr

r

_

r

2

sin

2

α −k

2

= sin α · φ +c

1

where c

1

is the constant of integration. Introducing

r =

1

t

, dr = −

1

t

2

dt, t =

1

r

, the L.H.S. integral trans-

forms to

k ·

_

·t

1

_

sin

2

α

t

2

−k

2

·

_

−

dt

t

2

_

= −k

_

dt

_

sin

2

α −k

2

t

2

= cos

−1

_

kt

sin α

_

.

Then cos

−1

_

kt

sin α

_

= φ sin α +c

1

kt

sin α

= cos(φ sin α +c

1

)

Thus

k

r sin α

= cos(φ sin α +c

1

)

and θ = α are the equations of the geodesics.

Chap-04 B.V.Ramana August 30, 2006 10:13

CALCULUS OF VARIATIONS 4.11

EXERCISE

Variational problems

1. Test for extremum of the functional

I[y(x)] =

_ π

2

0

(y

2

−y

2

)dx, y(0) = 0, y

_

π

2

_

= 1.

Hint: Euler’s Equation (EE): y

+y = 0, y =

c

1

cos x +c

2

sin x using B.C, c

1

= 0, c

2

= 1

Ans. y = sin x

Find the extremal of the following functionals

2.

_

x

2

x

1

(y

2

+y

2

−2y sin x)dx

Hint: EE: 2y −2 sin x −2y

= 0

Ans. y = c

1

e

x

+c

2

e

−x

+

sin x

2

3.

_

1

0

(y

12

+12xy)dx, y(0) = 0, y(1) = 1.

Hint: EE: y

= 6x, y = x

3

+c

1

x +C

2

, C =

0, c

2

= 0

Ans. y = x

3

4.

_

π

2

0

(y

2

−y

2

+2xy)dy, y(0) = 0, y

_

π

2

_

= 0

Hint: EE: y

+y = x, y = c

1

cos x +

c

2

sin x +x

Ans. y = x −

π

2

sin x

5.

_

x

2

x

1

(y

2

+2xyy

)dx, y(x

1

) = y

1

, y(x

2

) = y

2

Hint: EE: 2y +2xy

−2(xy

+y) = 0 i.e.,

0 = 0

Ans. Invalid problem

6.

_

2

1

x

3

y

2

dx, y(1) = 1, y(2) = 4

Ans. y = x

2

7.

_

3

2

y

2

x

3

dx, y(2) = 1, y(3) = 16

Hint: EE:

y

y

=

3

x

, y

= cx

3

, y = c

1

x

4

+c

2

Ans. y =

3

13

x

4

−

35

13

8.

_

x

1

x

0

(y

2

+y

2

+2ye

x

) dx

Ans. y = Ae

x

+Be

−x

+

1

2

xe

x

9.

_

π

0

(4y cos x −y

2

+y

2

)dx, y(0) = 0, y(π) =

0

Hint: EE: y

+y = 2 cos x, y = c

1

cos x +

c

2

sin x +x sin x, c

1

= 0, c

2

= arbitrary

Ans. y = (C +x) sin x.

4.5 ISOPERIMETRIC PROBLEMS

In calculus, in problems of extrema with constraints

it is required to ﬁnd the maximum or minimum of a

function of several variably g(x

1

, x

2

, . . . , x

η

) where

the variables x

1

, x

2

, . . . , x

η

are connected by some

given relation or condition known as a constraint.

The variational problems considered so far ﬁnd

the extremum of a functional in which the argument

functions could be chosen arbitrarily except for pos-

sible end (boundary) conditions. However, the class

of variational problems with subsidiary conditions

or constraints imposed on the argument functions,

apart fromthe end conditions, are branded as isoperi-

metric problems. In the original isoperimetric (“iso”

for same, “perimetric” for perimeter) problem it is

required to ﬁnd a closed curve of given length which

enclose maximum area. It is known even in ancient

Greece that the solution to this problemis circle. This

is an example of the extrema of integrals under con-

straint consists of maximumizing the area subject to

the constraint (condition) that the length of the curve

is ﬁxed.

The simplest isoperimetric problem consists

of ﬁnding a function f (x) which extremizes the

functional

I[y(x)] =

_

x

2

x

1

f (x, y, y

)dx (1)

subject to the constraint (condition) that the second

integral

J[y(x)] =

_

x

2

x

1

g(x, y, y

)dx (2)

assumes a given prescribed value and satisfying the

prescribed end conditions y(x

1

) = y

1

and y(x

2

) =

y

2

. To solve this problem, use the method of

Lagrange’s multipliers and form a new function

H(x, y, y

) = f (x, y, y

) +λg(x, y, y

) (3)

where λ is an arbitrary constant known as the

Lagrange multiplier. Now the problem is to ﬁnd the

extremal of the new functional,

Chap-04 B.V.Ramana August 30, 2006 10:13

4.12 MATHEMATICAL METHODS

I

∗

[y(x)] =

_

x

2

x

1

H(x, y, y

)dx, subject to no con-

straints (except the boundary conditions). Then the

modiﬁed Euler’s equation is given by

∂H

∂y

−

d

dx

_

∂H

∂y

_

= 0 (4)

The complete solution of the second order Equation

(4) contains, in general, two constants of integration

say c

1

, c

2

and the unknown Lagrange multiplier λ.

These 3 constants c

1

, c

2

, λ will be determined using

the two end conditions y(x

1

) = y

1

, y(x

2

) = y

2

and

given constraint (2).

Corollary: Parametric form: To ﬁnd the

extremal of the functional

I =

_

t

2

t

1

f (x, y, x

.

, y

.

, t )dt

subject to the constraint

J =

_

t

2

t

1

g(x, y, x

.

, y

.

, t )dt = constant

solve the system of two Euler equations given by

∂H

∂x

−

d

dt

_

∂H

∂x

.

_

= 0 and

∂H

∂y

−

d

dt

_

∂H

∂y

.

_

= 0

resulting in the solution x = x(t ), y = y(t ), which

is the parametric representation of the required func-

tion y = f (x) which is obtained by elimination of t .

Here x

.

=

dx

dt

and y

.

=

dy

dt

and

H(x, y, x

.

, y

.

, t ) = f (x, y, x

.

, y

.

, t ) +λ g(x, y, x

.

, y

.

, t )

The two arbitrary constants c

1

, c

2

and λ are deter-

mined using the end conditions and the constraint.

4.6 STANDARD ISOPERIMETRIC

PROBLEMS

Circle

Example 1: Isoperimetric problem is to determine

a closed curve C of given (ﬁxed) length (perimeter)

which encloses maximum area.

Solution: Let the parametric equation of the curve

C be

x = x(t ), y = y(t ) (1)

where t is the parameter. The area enclosed by curve

C is given by the integral

I =

1

2

_

t

2

t

1

(xy

.

−x

.

y)dt (2)

where x

.

=

dx

dt

, y

.

=

dy

dt

. We have x(t

1

) = x(t

2

) = x

0

and y(t

1

) = y(t

2

) = y

0

, since the curve is closed.

Now the total length of the curce C is given by

J =

_

t

2

t

1

_

x

.

2

+y

.

2

dt (3)

Form H =

1

2

(xy

.

−x

.

y) +λ

_

x

.

2

+y

.

2

(4)

Here λ is the unknown Lagrangian multiplier. Prob-

lem is to ﬁnd a curve with given perimeter for which

area (2) is maximum. Euler equations are

∂H

∂x

−

d

dt

_

∂H

∂x

.

_

= 0 (5)

and

∂H

∂y

−

d

dt

_

∂H

∂y

.

_

= 0 (6)

Differentiating H in (4) w.r.t. x, x

.

, y, y

.

and substi-

tuting them in (5) and (6), we get

1

2

y

.

−

d

dt

⎛

⎝

−

1

2

y +

λx

.

_

x

.

2

+y

.

2

⎞

⎠

=0 (7)

−

1

2

x

.

−

d

dt

⎛

⎝

1

2

x +

λy

.

_

x

.

2

+y

.

2

⎞

⎠

=0 (8)

Integrating (7) and (8) w.r.t. ‘t ’, we get

y −

λx

.

_

x

.

2

+y

.

2

= c

1

(9)

and x +

λy

.

_

x

.

2

+y

.

2

= c

2

(10)

where c

1

and c

2

are arbitrary constants. From(9) and

(10) squaring (y −c

1

) and (x −c

2

) and adding, we

get

(x −c

2

)

2

+(y −c

1

)

2

=

⎛

⎝

−λy

.

_

x

.

2

+y

.

2

⎞

⎠

2

+

⎛

⎝

λx

.

_

x

.

2

+y

.

2

⎞

⎠

2

=λ

2

(x

.

2

+y

.

2

)

(x

.

2

+y

.

2

)

= λ

2

i.e., (x −c

2

)

2

+(y −c

1

)

2

= λ

2

Chap-04 B.V.Ramana August 30, 2006 10:13

CALCULUS OF VARIATIONS 4.13

which is the equation of circle. Thus we have

obtained the well-known result that the closed curve

of given perimeter for which the enclosed area is a

maximum is a circle.

Catenary

Example 2: Determine the shape an absolutely

ﬂexible, inextensible homogeneous and heavy

rope of given length L suspended at the points A

and B

Fig. 4.6

Solution: The rope in equilibriumtake a shape such

that its centre of gravity occupies the lowest position.

Thus to ﬁnd minimum of y-coordinate of the centre

of gravity of the string given by

I[y(x)] =

_

x

2

x

1

y

_

1 +y

2

dx

_

x

2

x

1

_

1 +y

2

dx

(1)

subject to the constraint

J[y(x)] =

_

x

2

x

1

_

1 +y

2

dx = L = constant (2)

Thus to minimize the numerator in R.H.S. of (1) sub-

ject to (2). Form

H = y

_

(1 +y

2

) +λ

_

1 +y

2

= (y +λ)

_

1 +y

2

(3)

where λ is Lagrangian multiplier. Here H is inde-

pendent of x. So the Euler equation is

H −y

∂H

∂y

= constant = k

1

i.e., (y +λ)(

_

1 +y

2

) −y

(y +λ) ·

1

2

2y

_

1 +y

2

= k

1

(y +λ)

_

(1 +y

2

) −y

2

_

= k

1

(

_

1 +y

2

)

or y +λ = k

1

_

1 +y

2

(4)

Put y

**= sinh t , where t is a parameter, in (4)
**

Then y +λ = k

1

_

1 +sin

2

ht = k

1

cosh t (5)

Now dx =

dy

y

=

k

1

sinh t dt

sinh t

= k

1

dt

Integrating x = k

1

t +k

2

(6)

Eliminating ‘t ’ between (5) and (6), we have

y +λ = k

1

cosh t = k

1

cosh

_

x −k

2

k

1

_

(7)

Equation (7) is the desired curve which is a catenary.

Note: The three unknowns λ, k

1

, k

2

will be

determined fromthe two boundary conditions (curve

passing through A and B) and the constraint (2).

WORKED OUT EXAMPLES

Example 1: Find the extremal of the function

I[y(x)] =

_

π

0

(y

2

−y

2

)dx with boundary condi-

tions y(0) = 0, y(π) = 1 and subject to the con-

straint

_

π

0

y dx = 1.

Solution: Here f = y

2

−y

2

and g = y. So choose

H = f +λg = (y

2

−y

2

) +λy where λ is the

unknown Lagrange’s multiplier. The Euler’s equa-

tion for H is

∂H

∂y

−

d

dx

_

∂H

∂y

_

= 0

Using derivatives of H w.r.t. y and y

, we get

(−2y +λ) −

d

dx

(2y

) =0

or y

+y = λ

whose general solution is

y(x) = CF +PI = (c

1

cos x +c

2

sin x) +(λ) (1)

Chap-04 B.V.Ramana August 30, 2006 10:13

4.14 MATHEMATICAL METHODS

The three unknowns c

1

, c

2

, λ in (1) will be deter-

mined using the two boundary conditions and the

given constraint. From (1)

0 =y(0) = c

1

+c

2

· 0 +λ or c

1

+λ = 0

1 =y(π) = −c

1

+c

2

· 0 +λ or −c

1

+λ = 1

Solving λ =

1

2

, c

1

= −λ = −

1

2

Now from the given constraint

_

π

0

y dx =1, we have

_

π

0

(c

1

cos x +c

2

sin x +λ)dx =1

c

1

sin x −c

2

cos x +λx

¸

¸

¸

¸

π

0

=1

(0 +c

2

+λπ) −(0 −c

2

+0) =1

or 2c

2

= 1 −πλ =

_

1 −

π

2

_

Thus the required extremal function y(x) is

y(x) = −

1

2

cos x +

_

1

2

−

π

4

_

sin x +

1

2

.

Example 2: Show that the extremal of the isoperi-

metric problem I[y(x)] =

_

x

2

x

1

y

2

dx subject to the

condition J[y(x)] =

_

x

2

x

1

y dx = constant = k is a

parabola. Determine the equation of the parabola

passing through the points P

1

(1, 3) and P

2

(4, 24) and

k = 36.

Solution: Here f = y

2

and g = y. So form

H = f +λg = y

2

+λy.

The Euler equation for H is

∂H

∂y

−

d

dx

_

∂H

∂y

_

=0

λ −

d

dx

(2y

) =0

or y

−

λ

2

=0

Integrating twice,

y(x) =

λ

2

x

2

2

+c

1

x +c

2

(1)

which is a parabola. Here c

1

and c

2

are constants of

integration. To determine the particular parabola, use

B.C’s y(1) = 3 and y(4) = 24 (i.e., passing through

points P

1

and P

2

) and the given constraint. From (1)

3 = y(1) =

λ

4

+c

1

+c

2

(2)

Again from (1)

24 = y(4) = 4λ +4c

1

+c

2

(3)

Now from the constraint

_

x

2

=4

x

1

=1

y(x)dx = 36

or

_

4

1

_

λ

4

x

2

+c

1

x +c

2

_

dx = 36

i.e.,

λ

4

·

x

3

3

+c

1

x

2

2

+c

2

x

¸

¸

¸

¸

4

1

= 36

or 42λ +60c

1

+24c

2

= 288 (4)

From (2) & (3):

λ −c

2

= 12

and from (3) & (4)

2λ −c

2

= 8

Solving λ = −4, c

2

= −16, c

1

= 20. Thus the spe-

ciﬁc parabola satisfying the given B.C.’s (passing

through P

1

and P

2

) is

y =−

4

4

x

2

+20x −16

i.e., y =−x

2

+20x −16.

EXERCISE

1. Find the curve of given length L which joins

the points (x

1

, 0) and (x

2

, 0) and cuts off from

the ﬁrst quadrant the maximum area.

Ans. (x −c)

2

+(y −d)

2

= λ

2

, c =

x

1

+x

2

2

,

a =

(x

2

−x

1

)

2

, λ

2

= d

2

+a

2

,

√

d

2

+a

2

cot

−1

_

d

a

_

=

L

2

.

2. Determine the curve of given length L which

joins the points (−a, b) and (a, b) and gen-

erates the minimum surface area when it is

revolved about the x-axis.

Ans. y = c cosh

x

c

−λ, where c =

a

sin h

−1

_

L

2

_

, λ =

c

2

√

4 +L

2

−b

Chap-04 B.V.Ramana August 30, 2006 10:13

CALCULUS OF VARIATIONS 4.15

3. Find the extremal of I =

_

π

0

y

2

dx subject to

_

π

0

y

2

dx = 1 and satisfying y(0) = y(π) = 0

Hint: EE: y

−λy = 0

Ans. y

η

(x) = ±

_

2

π

sin ηx, η = 1, 2, 3 . . .

4. Show that sphere is the solid of revolution

which has maximum volume for a given sur-

face area.

Hint: H = πy

2

+λ[(2πy)

_

(1 +y

2

)], EE:

y

=

√

4λ

2

−y

2

y

, (x −2λ)

2

+y

2

= (2λ)

2

; cir-

cle, solid of revolution sphere.

5. Find the curve of given length L which mini-

mizes the curved surface area of the solid gen-

erated by the revolution of the curve about the

x-axis.

Ans. Catenary

6. Determine y(x) for which

_

1

0

(x

2

+y

2

)dx

is stationary subject to

_

1

0

y

2

dx = 2, y(0) =

0, y(1) = 0.

Ans. y = ±2 sin mπx, where m is an integer.

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